Plan Bee from Kwamalasamutu

Author: 
Leen de Laender
Date: 
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the indigenous village of Kwamalasamutu in southern Suriname, ACT has launched a pilot project to help the community members raise forest bees for income. The bees’ “bush honey” will be marketed in the nation’s capital city of Paramaribo.

A nest of stingless bees (tëwainen wanë) in the hull of a tree. The dark “pots” contain nectar, pollen and honey. Click to enlarge

Leading the enthusiastic village crew are Kamanja, Wuta, Korotai, Keeng, Ponsokoro, and Ësenio, coordinated by ACT’s Bruce Hoffmann and supported by the nation’s Ministry of Agriculture, Cattle Breeding, and Fisheries.

The project commenced with research into which of the area bee species produce the best-tasting honey in sufficient quantity—the villagers are already well acquainted with the local varieties, and consider their honey a delicacy—and the means by which these bees can be successfully raised over the long term.   It was decided that several species of stingless bees (of the tribe Meliponini) will be raised.  The Trio people recognize and name no fewer than 30 different kinds of bees (wanë).

On November 10, 2015, with the assistance of Ministry technicians, a first appropriate nest of tëwainen wanë was discovered. In the Trio language, wanë means bee and/or honey, and tëwainen means transparent or clear, a reference to the bright color of the honey. Following extraction from a tree, the nest was very carefully exposed, showing dark, spherical “honey pots” where honey and nectar is collected by the diligent bees.

Korotai samples the honey—a true delicacy! Click to enlarge

 “Switi!” exclaimed Korotai at the sight. Gathering with a stick, he licked the exuding honey, encouraging the other participants to savor its sweetness.

The honey was removed from these recesses with a large plastic syringe, and the colony was placed in a wooden bee box.  For several days, the box would remain in the forest to enable the bees to acclimate to their new residence, followed by transportation to a prepare village site for cultivation. Through box beekeeping, honey may be harvested at regular intervals without potential damage to trees. 

“It is very nice to see so much enthusiasm for bees,” said the Ministry’s beekeeping coordinator Mohamad Khodabaks. “The commencement of the project is already a success, and we’re looking forward to the follow-up.” In the first project phase, five bee boxes will be placed in Kwamalasamutu, with the expectation that honey production will begin in February 2016 and that a first harvest will be possible in July 2016. Subsequently, bee boxes also will be installed in the indigenous villages of Tepu and Sipaliwini. 

The bee colony is placed in a wooden box that will remain in the forest for several days so that the bees can adapt to their new residence.

Mohamad Khodobaks, a governmental apiculture coordinator, carefully dislodges a bee’s nest for boxed transportation. Kamanja, Ësenio and village leader Wakusha look on.

Dutch version can be read on the ACT-Suriname website.